Germany, France into quarterfinals at World Cup

Germany and England proved that timing is key at the women’s

World Cup, winning matches when it counts to top their respective

groups.

With its greatest player benched because of to poor form,

Germany didn’t miss Birgit Prinz a bit. Two first-half headers

compensated for some poor second-half defending to give the hosts a

4-2 win over France to win Group A. Celia Okoyino da Mbabi sealed

the match with a fine volley late in the game.

”We showed class,” Germany coach Silvia Neid said. ”Now we

are really into this tournament. The players showed what they are

made of.”

So did the Englishwomen.

The team staved off the threat of early elimination with a

confidence-boosting 2-0 win over Japan. The victory gave it the top

spot in Group B and produced a stunning goal for the World Cup

highlights reel, a precise 21-yard lob from Ellen White.

The results set up Germany against Japan in Wolfsburg and

England against France in Leverkusen on Saturday. Groups C and D

will be decided Wednesday, with Brazil, Sweden and the United

States already through. The Americans face the Swedes for first

place in Group C.

Also Tuesday, New Zealand tied Mexico 2-2, and Nigeria beat

Canada 1-0.

The day had the first red card, the first penalty kick, even the

first blackout. But more importantly, the biggest benching of the

tournament so far.

Prinz is the competition’s all-time leading scorer with 14 goals

and was expected to score in her fifth straight World Cup. After

Germany’s best performance so far, it was unclear whether Prinz’s

sullen demeanor would light up again for the next two weeks.

After two one-goal wins, Germany was second behind France and

badly needed a win, not only to take the group, but also to give

the team and a nation of fans confidence again.

Four goals did so, even though a weakness on corner kicks hurt

Germany.

Instead of Prinz, it was Inka Grings who inspired the team with

two goals.

One came on a penalty kick after France goalkeeper Berangere

Sapowicz was sent off for swiping Fatmire Bajramaj off her feet,

the first red card in 10 days of competition.

The score of 3-1 and 11 against 10 should have had Germany

coasting. But France came back on Laura Georges’ header and even

came close to equalizing before da Mbabi sent the 45,867 fans at

the sold-out Borussia Park celebrating into the night.

”Now we want to build on this,” said da Mbabi.

England understands the surging feeling.

After a lackluster first two games, England was spectacular in

its decisive match. After 15 minutes, Sophie Bradley sent a deep

ball from her half of the field toward Ellen White, who spotted

goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori off her line. She let the ball bounce once

and lobbed it over Kaihori with exquisite precision from 21

yards.

In the 66th, England came up with a second pretty goal when

Rachel Unitt shrugged off several defenders to set up substitute

forward Rachel Yankey for a delicate chip and the insurance

score.

”They were both tremendous finishes,” said midfield standout

Jill Scott.

With the tournament on the line, England was aggressive and

played with passion throughout, while Japan rarely thrilled the

crowd of 20,777.

”We managed to startle them somewhat,” said England coach Hope

Powell, who saw her team’s ”scruffy” attitude pay off with

exhilarating goals.

New Zealand came back with two late goals to draw with Mexico.

Both were eliminated.

In the worst miscue of the night, the floodlights went out in

Dresden for a dozen minutes. When they came back, Perpetua Nkwocha

gave Nigeria the win over Canada in a match between two teams

already eliminated.